Whether you’re three or 80, mindfulness activities can help to relieve stress, increase focus and awareness, and support mental health. For the senior, mindfulness activities are an important therapy in aging well.
What are some mindfulness activities to improve brain health?
Mindfulness activities can be as simple as deep breathing or as complicated as mind-mapping but all involve taking a few moments to center oneself. They each offer opportunities to focus on what is happening in the present without judging sensations or feelings as they come forward. This can bring about a clearer presence of mind, allowing us to let go of feelings and thoughts that are distracting from what’s happening in front of us.
Some suggested activities include:
- Journaling: Journaling can vary depending on one’s needs. Take time to write a daily notation of activities. Keep a diary of feelings and emotions. Or, keep a gratitude journal – thinking of the things, places, and people that you are grateful for can change one’s perspective and outlook.
- Deep breathing exercises: mindful breathing often takes the form of centering the breath, noticing which body parts are affected when breathing, and counting while you inhale, hold the breath, and exhale.
- Meditation: Taking a few minutes to clear your mind and focus on breathing, spiritual thoughts or just being can help to relieve stress and challenges of the day.
- Mood tracking: Keeping a calendar of one’s overall emotional state can help to bring focus to triggers or health issues that may be affecting mood i.e. sleep.
- Mindful eating: focusing on one object such as a strawberry or raisin and using your five senses to notice its characteristics.
- Mind mapping: Create a diagram of your thoughts and challenges and how they feed and flow into each other can help to bring focus to real challenges.
- Mindful walking: taking measured steps and focusing on each action and the way a surface feels under your feet.
What are the benefits of mindfulness activities for seniors?
Mindfulness activities are beneficial for all ages but for seniors, they can be especially helpful in helping to relieve stress and improve attention. Some specific areas that can benefit include:
- Stress: Mindfulness activities are especially helpful in managing stress. Deep breathing can help to regulate a racing heart, help to focus the mind on the present, and prevent the brain from focusing on negative thoughts.
- Memory Loss: Exercising the brain through mindfulness activities can help to keep the brain sharp. Mindfulness activities are known for increasing short-term memory important for all but especially a concern for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementia symptoms.
- Digestion: Mindful eating practices have a direct impact on feelings of fullness, increase blood flow to the digestive organs, and increase our sensory awareness. Mindful eating allows a person to listen to what the body needs and develop healthier eating habits.
- Cognition: Mindfulness activities help to strengthen attention span, awareness, and reasoning abilities. By encouraging concentration, information can be processed in a better way.
- Mood Management: As seniors face lessening abilities, mindfulness activities can help to manage feelings of frustration and depression – especially in the management of ruminating thoughts. Through relaxation and positivity training exercises, seniors can let go of anxiety and other mental health stressors.
What to expect from routine mindfulness activities
No matter your age, mindfulness activities can have immediate effects on breathing rate, presence of mind, and calmness. However, for the senior, other long-term effects can have a direct impact on quality of life. Many seniors who add mindfulness activities into their daily routine, experience a greater sense of peace, sense of well-being, and presence. This can directly impact the brain, circulation, and mental health – sometimes lessening the need for medications.
But overall, the greatest impact is that sense of well-being and peace as the senior moves through the later stages of life.